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International climate change negotiations

What is a COP?

The Conference of the Parties (COP) was created when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992. It is the supreme body of the UNFCCC bringing together all Parties to the Convention: 195 countries and the European Union.

The Conference is held annually, rotating among the countries of the five regional groups of the United Nations (PDF), to review the implementation of the Convention, adopt decisions to clarify the rules, and negotiate new commitments. Since the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol in 2005, it has been coupled with the annual meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP).

The host country is chosen within the regional group. In 2015, the Presidency of the COP will be handed over to France, which stood as a candidate for the Western European and Others Group.

Who participates in the sessions of the COP?

Sessions of the COP are attended by representatives from each of the Parties to the UNFCCC of 1992, that is, 195 states and the European Union, , which is a Party alongside its 28 Member States. The UNFCCC is thus a universal convention. Representatives from all non-state actors of society (including governmental and non-governmental organizations, local governments, unions, businesses, scientists and young people) also take part in these conferences.

Current stakes of the negotiations

From one climate conference to the next, the international community builds tools to limit global warming to 2°C between now and 2100.

Shortly before Lima, the EU adopted a climate and energy package, with the ambitious target of cutting emissions by at least 40% by 2030; this is the basis of its contribution. Soon afterwards, the United States and China announced an agreement to jointly reduce their emissions. These announcements, by three players who account for more than half of global emissions, have generated momentum that should encourage all countries to commit. Climate also emerged as a major issue at the G20 in Australia and the final communiqué sent a clear message that the G20 is involved in the fight against climate change. Lastly, the capitalization of the Green Climate Fund is also a promising sign for developing countries.

Background to the climate negotiations

Logo de la Convention-cadre des Nations unies sur les changements climatiques

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Summit.

It entered into force in 1994 and has been ratified by 196 Parties. Its objective is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

The first practical and binding application of the UNFCCC was formalized by the Kyoto Protocol. This was adopted in 1997, entered into force in 2005 and has been ratified by 192 parties (the United States has not ratified it). It imposed on 37 developed countries overall emission reductions of 5% below 1990 levels (8% for the EU) over the period 2008-2012. The other countries did not commit to quantified objectives but were involved in the process through incentive mechanisms.

Illust: L'Union européen, 123.2 kb, 720x300
L’Union européenne représente seulement 13% des émissions mondiales (part qui ne cesse de décroître).

The Protocol was extended at the Doha Conference, setting a target to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries by at least 18% between 2013 and 2020 (the “second commitment period”) compared to 1990 levels. The final compromise was initiated by the European Union, which linked the extension of its commitment under the Protocol to the adoption of a roadmap for a global agreement. France therefore agreed, along with the European Union, to participate in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from 1 January 2013. The European Union was the first to submit its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 20% for the second commitment period, in April 2012.

Mise à jour : 07.12.14